Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State

By Bruce A. Rubenstein; Lawrence E. Ziewacz | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9

Early Ethnic Contributions

IN 1860 MICHIGAN'S POPULATION WAS 749,113, but by 1890 it had almost tripled, reaching 2,093,889. Detroit, Michigan's largest city, grew at an even more phenomenal pace during that period, increasing from 45,619 to 205,876 or nearly 450 percent. Much of this increase in population was a result of foreign immigration. Between 1860 and 1900 over 700,000 new inhabitants migrated to Michigan, of whom almost 400,000 came from foreign lands. In 1870 Detroit ranked fourteenth among the nation's cities in the size of its foreign-born population, and by 1890, one-fourth of its population was foreign born.

Michigan and Immigration Encouragement

As early as 1845 the state of Michigan actively initiated a policy of attracting new settlers from Europe. Reacting to a joint resolution of the legislature, introduced by State Senator Edwin M. Cust of Livingston County, calling for establishment of an Office of Foreign Emigration in New York, Governor John Barry signed the bill into law March 24, 1845. On April 19, the governor appointed John Almy, of Grand Rapids, as New York agent for landowners seeking to attract settlers to their sparsely populated lands in Ottawa and Kent counties. Almy was paid sixty dollars for two months' work and an additional thirty dollars for the cost of preparing a pamphlet describing Michigan's attractions.

Almy wrote a six-page pamphlet, State of Michigan—1845—To Emigrants, which gave general information about the state, praised its resources, and included a map. Over 5,000 brochures were printed and distributed to potential immigrants. Although Governor Barry was impressed with Almy's efforts and offered to extend his contract for sixty additional days, Almy declined.


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Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State


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